The Postal Service’s new Day of the Dead stamps were dedicated Sept. 30 at the El Paso Museum of Art in Texas.
Dia de los Muertos, as the holiday is called in Spanish, is celebrated Nov. 1-2, straddling the Roman Catholic feast days of All Saints Day and All Souls Day, respectively. It is an exuberant mashup of these holy days and millennia-old Indigenous Mexican traditions.
“In recent decades, Day of the Dead has caught on in the United States as a festive celebration for all ages,” said Michael J. Elston, secretary of the USPS Board of Governors, who served as the dedicating official.
The stamps are “a wonderful way to commemorate this colorful and life-affirming holiday,” he said.
The celebration — despite what can seem like ghoulish imagery, it is a joyful, festive occasion — centers around the idea that the spirits of the departed return to the land of the living every year during this brief window. Offerings of the spirits’ favorite food and drink are placed on altars bedecked with marigolds and crafts to lure them.
Decorated skulls, or calaveras, often made of sugar, are perhaps the most recognizable symbol of the holiday. Each of the four stamps features one, together forming a family: a mustachioed father, a mother with curls, a daughter with her hair in a bow, and another child.
Day of the Dead rose in prominence in the United States in the 1970s, when Chicano artists embraced the holiday as a means of venerating their heritage, uniting the Latin American community and educating the general public.
Today, celebrations are held nationwide, with skeleton costumes, face painting, music, special food and craft workshops.
The Forever stamps, available in panes of 20 at Post Offices and usps.com, were designed and illustrated by Luis Fitch. Antonio Alcalá provided the art direction.